It’s more than a tad ironic that on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day we will not really be able to enjoy it like we have in the past. Yes, we still have some mobility during this pandemic, but it does not feel like quite the same. A mass gathering in Central Park is a cause for concern not elation. But then again, have we ever really celebrated Earth Day properly? We should view this coronavirus pandemic as a warning from Mother Earth. She is already letting us know through climate change that we’ve not been treating her very well. And this plague that has already taken tens of thousands of lives and will take more is another warning that we should heed.
Just consider the following points:
1. Los Angeles has had the most consecutive clean air days in 25 years. My friend Todd noted that he survived smog alerts in L.A. to now be quarantined when air quality there is the best it has been in a long time.
3. Seismologists are detecting less ambient noise because less people are out walking and driving, which can help them to detect smaller events. Basically, we’re not rocking the planet in the same way.
4. With less overall noise pollution — less planes flying overhead, fewer cars clogging streets and highways — we are starting to notice the sounds of nature more. We are hearing more of the world the way it used sounded over 100 years ago.
5. Animals are reclaiming their natural habitats in National Parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. It is rightfully theirs anyway.
6. On the flip side, however, littering is on the rise in NYC thanks to people discarding masks and gloves in the street. That is something that is easily fixed.
For the most part, these startling changes are good. But they won’t last long if we dive headlong back into our old ways.
With the world population nearing 8 billion people, up about 3.5 billion from 40 years ago, it is clear that there are far too many of us on the planet at this point. And while we can joke about contagion and disaster movies coming to life, the truth is that drastic changes need to be made before even more dire circumstances befall us in the future. We should pull ourselves out of our digital wombs and make changes for real, not just gripe about them on social media.
This whole situation has had me thinking about the fact that we need to treat the planet a lot better. I wish I could afford an electric car, or a least a hybrid. I’m contemplating reducing my meat consumption and becoming more vegetarian in my diet. After all, that’s why we’re in this coronavirus crisis to begin with. With recyclable collecting ground to a halt in my area, I’m going to be more conscientious about any excess use of plastic. It really is amazing how quickly it piles up in your home.
That latter observation seems pretty obvious, but then again we are so used to living our lives on autopilot that we are not thinking about such things regularly anymore. In many cases, they have become too inconvenient. The list of changes noted above offer proof of that. (How hard is it to throw your mask or gloves into a trash bin?)
I have always had a modestly sized apartment and car. I’ve never felt the need to spend excess amounts of money nor desire to have a huge house, an unnecessary SUV, or upgrade my smartphone or laptop every couple of years. My life as an artist defines wealth in very different ways from the average person. I feel like too many people work too hard for things that do not really matter.
We need to rethink our view of the future. The problem is we don’t know how to sacrifice our creature comforts and the things we think we need in order to survive. I have not complained about the quarantine at all because I could be in far worse circumstances. I could be living in an abusive household, be homeless, or be trapped in a nursing home that has become heavily infected with coronavirus. A majority of people should be not complaining about being cooped up or unable to indulge in normal social activities. This is temporary. Yes, a lot of us are going to lose work (I am already), a lot of us are going to endure economic difficulties, and life will not be the same for a very, very long time.
We better get used to it, and we better get used to the idea that we are to have to sacrifice some of the things that we like in order for us to move forward. Right now is not the time to sew the seeds of divisionism. And right now is not the time to complain about things that don’t really matter. Americans survived the Great Depression 80 years ago, and we can survive this. This country has been through far worse. We also need to demand more from our elected officials and corporations who chose to make the problem worse. I don’t think I need to elaborate about why.
We have a long road ahead. It’s not going to be easy, but we are going to make it through. We have to do it together. We are not all going to agree on the same things, nor how to solve every problem in the same way, but we are being given a very harsh lesson from Mother Nature that we should not be taking this amazing planet for granted. It’s time to heed the warning we’re being given. That may sound like a cliché, but it’s a lethal one that could wipe us out if we’re not smart.